How to Treat that Sore Throat at Home! best over the counter medicine for sore throat.


So you have a sore throat that is just killing you, but you don't really want to come and see me. I don't blame you, Nobody loves going to the doctor. 

So to help with that, Welcome to Family Med, your medical home for practical and accurate information to help your family make healthy decisions.  

Today we are going to address a topic that's one of the most common reasons that I see people in the office. It's a sore throat and it affects everybody. In fact, there are millions of visits in theUnited States each year for this very reason, and in all reality most of those visits are unnecessary. It's important to remember that the majority of sore throats are caused by a virus that we just don't have a cure for. So going to the doctor to get antibiotics not only useless, but it also puts all of us in danger of making bacteria resistant to the medications we have to treat them. So when we talk about approaches to treating sore throat there are 3 general categories that we are going to focus on. 

This is going to be Oral medications, topical treatments, and what we call Environmental treatments. The great thing about these three areas is that when we use several of them at the same time they can do well in controlling your symptoms. So what kind of oral medications are helpful? Well, the most common ones that I recommend trying at home are ibuprofen and acetaminophen or Tylenol. These tend to be the most effective in helping control sore throat pain. I have found that following the manufacturers dosing instructions and using them throughout your illness can really help. Verify with your doctor on whether this is safe for you but to my patients, I've found that alternating the appropriate dose of Tylenol and ibuprofen every 3 hours can really provide a lot of relief. This probably provides the best and most lasting relief however it can take up to an hour to start to get some relief. That is where topical therapies help and should be the next thing you can try. 

There are a lot of different topical therapies that can help quite a bit, they tend to be quicker acting but they don't tend to last as long that's why using it with some oral medications can get you some better control of your pain. These are going to be your throat lozenges or sprays. When you are looking for a lozenge the most common active ingredients are menthol, dyclonine, benzocaine, or hexylresorcinol. They all act as local anesthetics to numb your throat. When looking for sprays, the most common ingredients that are out there are phenol or benzocaine. These also provide a way to temporarily numb the throat. These can be most helpful when you need some relief right away such as right before eating or drinking. Let me pass on a caution though. 


There is a rare reaction that can happen from medicines that have benzocaine. It can cause a rare but serious and even sometimes fatal reaction called methemoglobinemia. This is a condition where the medicine prevents oxygen from being utilized properly in the blood. Since we are just using this to treat sore throat symptoms, I typically recommend avoiding the benzocaine products. So these are the main medications that are available over the counter that you can use to help control the pain related to a sore throat. But you don't have to just rely on medications to help you get some relief. 

There are plenty of things you can do naturally that can provide some relief. For example, I recommend that you get plenty of rest. Get lots of sleep and avoid talking. Remember to drink lots of fluids. This will keep your throat moist and prevent you from becoming dehydrated. Focus on warm or cool foods and drink. Eatingbroth or drinking warm water with honey or eating cold treats such as a popsicle can be quite soothing. 

Gargle with saltwater. Take 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a cup of warm water and gargle for 20-30 seconds. The salt helps shrink the swelling in the throat and can provide some relief. Get a cool-mist humidifier. Dry air can cause a lot of irritation and keeping it nice and humid will help. Make sure though, that the humidifier blows cool air and cleans it regularly. And Finally, avoid irritants like cigarette smoke that can make it worse. Employing all of these ideas that we talked about today can make a big difference in helping you get through this miserable illness. 

As with any condition though it's important to understand that if these symptoms are going on for several days and not improving or getting worse, or your treatments are not helping then go in and get seen by your doctor to make sure that there isn't something more significant going on. 

So until next time, Thanks for joining us.